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Prairie Fare: Does Timing of Meals Affect Health?

Studies demonstrate the importance of a morning meal.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“They’re cagey. I fed them at 3 a.m.,” he noted.

“You already fed them? Jake was barking, so I got up and fed them at 4:30 so you could sleep,” I responded.

Yes, our three dachshunds are like infants who demand early morning feedings. I got up with our three human kids when they were babies, so my husband usually feeds our canine kids.

Because our dogs were waking up in the night, we began feeding them smaller amounts three times a day instead of at their usual 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. feeding times. We are trying to keep them at a healthy weight to avoid the back issues that plague their breed.

Evidently, they want to eat almost continuously now.

“I hope they don’t get sick,” I said. They looked up at me with pleading eyes. I think they would have eaten again if I had put food in their bowls.

Later that morning, our college-age son stopped by and played with our pets. Our three dachshund boys were lying on their backs in their beds with their feet in the air. They looked like stuffed Thanksgiving turkeys.

“What’s wrong with the dogs? Why are their bellies so big?” he asked.

“They ate too much,” I said.

Our new dog-feeding strategy was not working, so we are back to twice-a-day feeding. I need to stick with human nutrition, I guess.

As I thought about our dog-feeding dilemma, I wondered how timing of meals affects human health. We could increase our risk for heart disease depending on when and how often we eat, according to a 2017 scientific statement released by the American Heart Association.

The researchers examined many studies. Some of the most conclusive findings were about breakfast.

You probably have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many published studies demonstrate the importance of a morning meal. Unfortunately, at least one in five adults skips breakfast.

According to the recent review of published research, breakfast skippers are more likely to have high blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Further, those who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese and/or to develop diabetes.

The authors of the study stressed the need for further research to learn how the timing of meals affects our risk for disease. Until more mealtime research is reported, consider these tips:

  • Eat breakfast. Try to include three food groups in your morning meal, such as whole-grain oatmeal, fruit and milk or yogurt.
  • Pay attention to what and when you eat and how you feel when you eat. Are you really hungry? Or are you bored, upset about something or tired? If you are bored, divert yourself with a walk or a good book. Leave the food in the kitchen.
  • Eat moderate-sized portions at mealtime and enjoy small snacks, such as some nuts or an apple, to avoid getting overly hungry.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Half of our plates should be filled with colorful fruits and vegetables, with the goal of at least 4 1/2 cups per day.
  • Aim for half of your grain choices to be whole grains. Whole grains provide all parts of the grain kernel, including appetite-squelching fiber.
  • Include lean protein in your daily diet.
  • Enjoy calcium-rich foods such as low-fat or fat-free dairy.
  • Check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov for information on the amount of food appropriate for your age, gender and level of physical activity.
  • Get plenty of physical activity. Adults need at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days.

As for our insomniac, ever-hungry dogs, spring will be welcome. They will get more exercise when they play outside in the warm weather. Maybe they will be tired enough to stay asleep longer.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Be sure to use frozen berries, not fresh ones, so they retain their shape better. You could substitute some whole-wheat flour for the all-purpose flour. This muffinlike cake goes great with scrambled eggs and milk for a tasty breakfast.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 c. quick-cooking oats

1/3 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 c. milk

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1 egg

1 c. frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray an 8-inch round or square baking pan. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt. In separate container, mix together milk, oil and egg. Pour all at once into the flour mixture. Stir until moistened; batter will be lumpy. Fold in frozen blueberries. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake is golden and pulls away from sides of pan, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack five to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 220 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 5 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 210 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - March 2, 2017

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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